We have all been alone at some points of our adult lives. This could be by choice or because romantic relationships didn't work out.
No matter what the reason for our solitude, it's a fact that some of us enjoy being alone more than others.
It's common to struggle with being alone. But it is important to realise that we can be content by ourselves and we don't need a romantic partner to make us happy.
We also have to remind ourselves that we have family, friends and other loved ones who care about us and who we can turn to for help and company when we need it.
For some of us, though, this is easier said than done. Let's not forget the fact that there is often societal pressure for us to be coupled up and countless situations where we're being told that there's no happier scenario in life for women than having a husband and children.
Jean Chen, director and counsellor at Relationship Matters, acknowledges that many of us hope for emotional connection and recreational companionship, so the desire and pressure to couple up still exists.
However, it's different than it used to be.
"Maybe there is a certain level of pressure as long as being a couple is the norm," she explains.
"I can imagine the pressure to be lower now than in the past though, as there are more available viable options to retire alone without a spouse and children, such as more access to financial independence (endowments, jobs), facilities (food apps), social support groups (Facebook etc) and healthcare support (nursing homes), especially with the proliferation of technology."
Being alone vs being lonely
Whether you're coupled up or not, there is a need to understand the difference between being alone and being lonely.
Jean quotes Filipino artist, writer and cultural critic, Danny Castillones Sillada, who said: "Tragically, the loneliness of the soul is not the nostalgic absence of presence, but the unbearable presence of absence."
"I agree with the quote that loneliness is the presence of absence, where one feels an emotional state of emptiness and sadness, even in a crowd. Being alone may not mean that one is feeling empty, it is more of being in solitude," Jean adds.
Even if it sometimes comes with negative connotations, being alone actually has several mental health benefits.
Have you ever heard about how we all need some 'me time' every now and then? That's just one example of how solitude can benefit us.
"I think everyone needs a good balance of being alone and being with company," Jean says.
"When one is having 'me time', one can focus on placing her happiness as the priority and fully enjoy the time without paying attention to others' feelings or preferences. Some also discover themselves better and what they really want in life when they have their 'me time' in solitude."
How to be content with being alone
There are many ways to be at peace with being alone. Accepting the situation and thriving in it are the first steps. Once you've decided that you want to make the best of the situation you're in, there are things you can do to feel fulfilled.
Jean has the following tips:
Find meaningful relationships such as friendships
As the saying goes, "No man is an island". Humans need connection and that can be found in friends and family if you are not in a romantic relationship.
Having some spiritual belief
Maybe having some spiritual belief and connecting with the presence of a possible higher being can be helpful in finding hope and emotional companionship.
Believing in the possibility of receiving help from a greater power also helps to soothe away fear. When fear is soothed away, peace can then enter into our being.
Try listening to a mix of songs
Especially songs that bring hope and warmth instead of focusing solely on music that depicts pain. Likewise, surround yourself with a mix of people, especially those who can help you feel better.
Find fulfilment in other areas of your life
It could be achieving milestones in your career, learning new skills, contributing to the community and so on.
Have a 'happy thing' you would do for yourself on a daily basis
It can be a hobby such as watching dramas, reading, cooking or just something simple like having your favourite snack.
Keep a pet
Animals can be a companion for us to relate to and find connection with too. It can also help us to connect with those who also love pets.
Keep physically active
Physical health is the one of the pillars of happiness. I believe that having regular aerobic exercise for at least 45 minutes each time can release dopamine that sends feel good messages to our brain and lift our mood.
Talk to a counsellor
Having unattended past hurt is like walking around with a dagger still lodged in our chest. When someone comes near to hug us, the knife presses further into the wound and the bleeding starts again.
Personal therapy can possibly help to remove the dagger so that the wound can completely heal and stop bleeding for good. Maybe it wouldn't hurt as much then when someone tries to form a close relationship or friendship with us.